Social Distancing Follies

The Adventist Health.White Memorial Medical Plaza in East Los Angeles

Today, I drove Martine for an ophthalmologist appointment in East Los Angeles. I went up to the waiting room with her, but was asked to leave because of social distancing requirements. So what happened? I had to stand in the corridor, which was full of other family members who weren’t really social distancing. And there wasn’t any seating to be had.

There is a bridge over César Chavez Boulevard (visible in the above photo), which would be an ideal place to sit—except it was posted all over with signs saying that, because of social distancing, no one may sit down there.

Perhaps one cannot catch the ’Rona when one is on one’s feet. At least, that seems to be the prevailing assumption. If the medical receptionist can’t see you in the corridor, then presumably you are, by definition, social distancing. ¡Que idiota!

Diamond Princess

The USS Petri Dish, I Mean the USS Diamond Princess

I have just watched a brief HBO documentary about the cruise ship Diamond Princess, whose passengers had the unenviable role of being the first people outside of China to come down with the coronavirus. It was called “The Last Cruise” (which it was for the 14 passengers who died of the virus).

In all my travels, I have avoided cruise ships—not because of the spread of infectious diseases, but because I don’t like to be in the position of having to be nice to the same bunch of wealthy strangers for multiple days in a row and because I don’t like my vacations to be highly regimented.

Another reason: I remember a cartoon in the New Yorker a number of years ago in which we saw a cruise ship whose name was S.S. All You Can Eat. Even under normal conditions, I’m fighting the “Battle of the Bulge” and certainly don’t need unlimited access to calorific foods.

The documentary consisted largely of cell phone videos taken by passengers and crew. It was evident that the filmmakers were aghast at the conditions of the crew, who were forced to associate with one another in close quarters while an epidemic ranged throughout the ship.

The ship sailed between Yokohama and several ports in Southeast Asia including Okinawa, Hong Kong, and a Vietnamese port not named. As the ship was homeward bound to Yokohama, it was discovered that a passenger boarding in Hong Kong had come down with Covid-19. When the ship reached Yokohama, it was put on quarantine for over a month, as cases spread like wildfire through the ship, infecting some 700+ passengers and an unspecified number of crew members. Passengers who had come down with the virus were carted off to Japanese hospitals.

Eventually, most of the American passengers were put on a military aircraft and returned to the U.S.

Carvaganza

A Perfect Car for the Road in Los Angeles

This weekend, a number of museums opened up for Covid-weary Angelenos, among whom are Martine and me. First we ate—indoors—at Du-Par’s Restaurant at the Original Farmers’ Market at 3rd and Fairfax. Then we breezed down Fairfax to the Petersen Automotive Museum at the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire.

Unfortunately, the current exhibits were more oriented toward the bearded and tattooed grundgerati. The museum’s former emphasis on the history of the automobile has been replaced by racing cars, including Maseratis, Lamborghinis, and others. In addition, there were a number of fantasy cars such as the monster above, which was designed for some movie which I likely never saw.

A Lamborghini Racing Car for the Cash-Non-Challenged

Still and all, it was nice to go eat out at a restaurant and visit a museum—quite a change from the previous twelve months. The Petersen was packed to overflowing with visitors who had no idea what social distancing was and why it is still essential. On the plus side, the wearing of masks was de rigeur.

Finally, here is a peak of the dashboard of the original Back to the Future car:

Dash and Front Seat of the Original Back to the Future Car

Vaccinated!

My Covid-19 Vaccination Card (with Date of Birth Obliterated)

Yesterday I finally got my second Pfizer Covid-19 second dose. As my doctor predicted, I came down this morning with a slight fever, some chills, and achy shoulders. I hated to think that I would die of the ’rona after all the quarantining I did over the last year. I went all the way out to Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Baldwin Park, where it all went down like clockwork.

Getting the Vaccine

Today I Got My First Covid-19 Vaccine Injection

Earlier this week, I talked to my doctor. She recommended I get either the Pfizer or the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, preferably through Kaiser-Permanente. So this morning, Martine and I drove to the Kaiser hospital in Baldwin Park, roughly three quarters of an hour from home. Why so far? Apparently, the Kaiser representative who set up the appointment is in another city and is not familiar with Los Angeles. No matter. I got there in plenty of time and got the first shot.

Although Martine was with me, she opted not to be vaccinated. She listens to AM talk radio a lot, and the pundits there kept emphasizing how dangerous the vaccine is. Martine tends to be hypersensitive, so she thought she would probably suffer some horrible reaction if she got the shot. Well, I got my shot (it was the Pfizer vaccine); and it didn’t feel any different than getting my annual flu shot at Walgreen’s.

The vaccination setup at Kaiser was very well organized. As part of the process, they gave me an appointment for the second shot on Saturday, March 15.

I can hardly wait until this whole coronavirus outbreak is a thing of the past.

The French Have a Phrase for It

The Paris Metro at the Stalingrad Stop

You know the colloquial expression for it: Work, work, work! (and several variants thereof). But the French have a more picturesque phrase to describe the thankless boredom of life under the Coronavirus outbreak:

Métro, Boulot, Dodo

According to the Thought.Co website from 2019, the term is explained as follows:

The informal French expression métro, boulot, dodo (pronounced [may tro boo lo do do]) is a wonderfully succinct way of saying you live to work. Métro refers to a subway commute, boulot is an informal word for work, and dodo is baby talk for sleeping.

The English equivalents—the rat race, the same old routine, work work work—don’t quite capture the same sense of constant movement, and a more literal English translation, “commute, work, sleep,” isn’t as poetic as the French.

A Portuguese Plague Diary

The Costumes Might Be Different, But It’s the Same Thing

The following are quoted from Gonçalo M. Tavares’s “My Plague Diary,” excerpts of which were published in the June 5, 2020 issue of the Times Literary Supplement:

For days, a violent poster campaign on the streets of the capital: if you are reading this, our condolences. You don’t want to be shut up at home, but in a coffin instead.

This poster worries more about your family than you do.

If you go out, you kill. If you go out, you die. If you go out and get sick, don’t complain. In any case, you won’t be able to complain.

If you have just gone out to visit your family, say goodbye to them.

At the entrance to the Metro: here’s hoping you don’t read me, here’s hoping you don’t die.

A lot of Brazilian prisoners are writing goodbye letters to their families. They say they’re getting sick. Coughing, fever, cries for help in a number of cells.

A picture from two weeks ago, jackals in the streets of Tel Aviv. They are hungry and they’ve lost their fear. Because they are hungry they’ve lost their fear. They need to go back to having fear or food, somebody says.

A friend from Brazil writes to me: “I wish I had a loudspeaker, like this guy in Ipanema.” They say he’s on the tenth floor, opposite the beach, and he’s set his speaker up on the balcony. And from all the way up there he was issuing warnings through his loudspeaker: Hey, lad in the blue shirt, the one on the bike, yeah, you! You’re going to get coronavirus, you know. Hey, lady in the flowery swimsuit, with your hair done and the red lipstick, yes you! You’re going to get coronavirus, you know…! She lives in Rio. She’s terrified.

Unemployment reaches 1929 Great Depression levels in the USA, and in Guatemala, women on the side of the road are holding a white flag. They wave the white flag when a car or a motorbike passes. They are unemployed, they ask anyone who stops for food.

Maria Branyas, aged 113, is now the oldest person to beat the novel coronavirus.

Dizziness, I’ve got to check this out. Too many days like this. Lying down, I’m fine, but sometimes it’s good to be on two feet. They don’t seem like days—but days in the middle of something. As if the day even when it is finished were not complete. It is always between one thing and another. These days are always the middle sibling. A need for lightness; feeding the dogs organizes my time; without their hunger I would surely be having more dizzy spells.

Two actions of resistance. You must wait or clean. How long does evil remain on a surface? Think about evil that can be eliminated by cleaning.

Doesn’t matter what you think, what matters is what you do.

There Will Be No Return to the Same Normal

And That’s Not Necessarily Bad

I am not only thinking about Covid-19, but also four years of egregiously bad government and a badly divided populace that has replaced reason with gonzo conspiracy theories.

There will be a lot of fast growth once the plague tocsin has stopped ringing, but the economy is not the only thing that needs to be rebuilt. For one thing, the younger generation (whatever we choose to call it) must have more to look forward to than ill-paid temporary gigs while a college loan Sword of Damocles hangs over its head. This is just one of several things that have to change.

I strongly suspect that one change will be a continuing diminution of the influence of Christianity on our lives. And very soon, we have to come to our senses about the fact that the weather is changing. Maybe not permanently, but remember we have come out of a mini ice age that began in the 18th century. And the earth will, for the time being, continue to warm up.

Look for It To Re-Open Soon

Will we continue to be a beef and potatoes nation? I don’t think so. I think we are headed toward plant-based substances that are a substitute for red meat.

The one thing we can depend on is change. Edmund Spenser had it right when he wrote:

Mutability

 When I bethink me on that speech whilere,
 Of Mutability, and well it weigh:
 Me seems,that though she all unworthy were
 Of the Heav’ns Rule; yet very sooth to say,
 In all things else she bears the greatest sway.
 Which makes me loathe this state of life so tickle,
 And love of things so vain to cast away;
 Whose flow’ring pride, so fading and so fickle,
 Short Time shall soon cut down with his consuming sickle.
 
Then gin I think on that which Nature said.
 Of that same time when no more Change shall be,
 But steadfast rest of all things firmly stayed
 Upon the pillars of Eternity,
 That is contrare to Mutability:
 For, all that moveth, doth in Change delight:
 But thence-forth all shall rest eternally
 With Him that is the God of Sabbaoth hight:
 O that great Sabbaoth God, grant me that Sabbaoth’s sight.

Masque of the Red Death

Death Is Stalking the Land in Roger Corman’s Masque of the Red Death

I cannot help but feel that Covid-19 is inching ever closer. The son of one of my friends probably has it; and all the holiday socializing that has been going on is leading to a crisis in Los Angeles. Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times had a headline in which paramedics can refuse to pick up a patient if he or she appears to be near death in their judgment. Emergency rooms and intensive care units are packed to overflowing such that local hospitals are casting about for hallways, chapels, and other rooms in which to deposit patients. And hospital morgues are overflowing with the dead.

Tomorrow, I was planning to ride the train downtown to return some library books. With the coronavirus news becoming worse day by day, I will wait two or three weeks until the maskless fools who have been socializing during the Christmas and New Years holidays come down with the virus and isolate themselves.

Because of their behavior during this outbreak, I am becoming reluctant to associate with young people in any capacity. I have numerous preexisting conditions that make me a prime target for the Red Death. Thankfully, all the young people in my family live out of town.

Instead of going downtown, I’ll take a walk to Bay City Imports in Santa Monica to get ingredients for a Calabrian Chile Pasta dish that looks interesting. As long as this outbreak lasts, I will be intent on working on my cooking skills. I know I’ll never catch up to my brother in this regard, so I’ll just have to reconcile myself with accepting second place in a family of two.

How to Survive the ’Rona

Kind of Looks Like Mines Intended to Explode on Contact with Ships

Since March 15, I have maintained strict quarantine—with a sole exception. Late in October, I visited my brother in the Coachella Valley. Although I have maintained telephone contact with my friends, I have not seen any of them for many months.

So how does one survive the dreaded ’Rona?

Very simple: Take yourself out of circulation. To the maximum extent possible, restrict your contact with friends and family to the telephone, e-mail, and—if you are so inclined—letters.

Let’s face it: There will be many more deaths and illnesses before this thing mutates or dies off.

This is a great time to see all the great movies you’ve missed (on TV and your computer), and to read great books. It’s also a good time to learn how to cook for yourself. Food that is delivered to your home is usually tepid at best.

Wear a mask when there is any chance of talking to someone in person, whether a neighbor or a grocery cashier. If you feel that the requirement to wear a mask is an infringement on your liberty, be ready to kill off your friends, acquaintances, family, and possibly yourself. Because there is a very real possibility that you might wind up a mass murderer through sheer idiocy.

And, if you see Jacob Marley’s face on your door knocker, run like hell!